General slogging of Microsoft Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Three reasons why Bill Gates is Darth Vader personified. Features gross distortions and defamatory accusations to the extent allowed by current U.S. libel law. Not intended for use by children under the age of 12.

In the Beginning…
I’m sure I’m goring someone’s sacred cow when I say that Microsoft has made more money by creating a problem (aka MS-DOS) and solving it (aka Windows) than any corporation in the history of the world. This has brought about a disastrous state of affairs for personal computer users in the late 20th century. [As if for computer users in the late 19th century everything was just fine.—Ed.] I’ve been using and programming computers for more than 15 years, and I think the computer cognoscenti among you will agree that I’m well within the boundaries of subtlety and good-taste when I say that Bill Gates is the Anti-Christ.


Before I go further, I want to clarify exactly what I’m talking about: Word and Excel are brilliant programs, and Microsoft deserves every dollar they earn from these wonderful products. (Here I’m referring to Word 5.1a for Macintosh, not the incredible disaster that is Word 6.) Additionally, Encarta is terrific, and some of their other CD products are quite nice. I use their Access database software daily, and, though I frequently get to play Sargent Schultz or Colonel Klink to Microsoft’s General Protection, Access generally operates at a tolerable pain threshold.

No, my editorial venom is reserved specifically for that bloated antithesis of user-friendliness known as Windows 95 and utterly irredeemable Window 3.1. For good measure, I’ll also attack Bill Gates personally, as that makes for a more interesting review, and I’ve got some space to fill. Now, on with the countdown…

It never ceases to amaze me, the sheer numbers of people who are convinced—nay, CONVINCED!—that Windows 95 represents the ultimate in the graphical user interface. Well, hey, a lot of people saw “Porky’s 5” but that doesn’t make it a good movie. Being popular has nothing to do with being good. Trust me, I’m neither.

Prior to Windows 95, came the awful interface known as Windows 3.1. Now I know some of you are too young to remember, but Windows 3.1 was, by most accounts, the computer equivalent of dousing one’s balls in petrol and running naked through the fires of Hell. And that’s just the end users. You can imagine what it was like for the computer technicians and network administrators. So let’s proceed directly to Windows 95, shall we?

Start Me Up…You Make a Grown Man Cry
Windows 95, though size-wise a beast of an install, is so much better than Windows 3.1 that English language runs out of positive adjectives, and I’m forced to use terms like aegri somnia, angus in herba and au pays des aveugles les borgnes sont rois. Such is the glory of Windows 95.

Having said all this—and said it well, I might add—Windows 95 is one of the grandest optical illusions ever foisted on the software-buying public. Granted, there’s pretty little window dressing (no pun intended), and they’ve approximated the Macintosh’s “look and feel” well enough to inspire a lawsuit. When things work on the Windows 95 system, life is tolerable. But God help you if you hit any kind of problem, General Protection or otherwise. (Trust me again when I say it is particularly infuriating to have a Microsoft product cause a Windows 95 General Protection error.)

There is so much not to like here that people have literally written books. What I want to know is why is it whenever I finish using Windows I feel cheap and dirty? Unlike Bill Gates, I shower frequently. Really.

Oh where to Start (haha)…It’s not a “Recycle Bin” if you throw the contents away, is it? Talk about screwing up the metaphor from the Start…Could one be much more presumptuous than to put a “Set Up The Microsoft Network” icon on everybody’s desktop? And let’s not forget Windows 95 disabling AOL and all the other Internet services upon install…Sticky menus would be great if they popped open about 300 percent faster. As is, it just slows most people down…If it’s now “Safe” to turn off my computer, what was it before? And is it particularly unsafe if I shut down after a system freeze?…Plug-and-play is plug-and-pray…is it possible to scatter more drivers and dll files on a hard drive? I didn’t think so….SYSTEM.INI, WIN.INI, SYSTEM.DAT, and USER.DAT. Thanks for the headaches…Thanks to a hidden DOS undercoating users still have to deal with the 8-dot-3 file name limit…font, color, multiple monitor and floppy disk management is a joke, and a bad joke at that…

Well, I could continue this until I get carpal tunnel, but you get the idea.

Supposedly, there is a new version of Windows on the way which, if the U.S. Justice Department doesn’t grind the proceedings to a halt, will put Internet Explorer on every PC desktop. That is to say, what Microsoft thinks is hot in the user interface world right now is the web browser approach. You know: Explore your desktop, explore your floppy disk, etc. It’s like you’re using Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer to look at your own machine. Personally, I think millions of users will be turned off to this method once they’re unable to find the newsgroups on their hard drive, but I could be wrong. (If anyone knows where I can find on my hard drive, let me know.)

The driving force behind this madness is a Harvard dropout named Bill Gates. He and unindicted co-conspirator Paul Allen, current owner and destructor of the Portland Trail Blazers, founded Microsoft back in the ’70s. It is no exaggeration to say that either one of these guys could spank me hard legally, so on the advice of someone who would be my attorney if I had the money and if she had passed the bar, I’d like to point out that this is humor. These are the jokes, folks…(Is this thing on?)

Bill and Darth: Nazis on Parade
Bill Gates has, and I’m approximating here because I’m not good at math, about $35,000,000,000 more dollars than me. I’m not kidding. I just ran my net worth in Quicken, and I’m pretty sure that’s about right. Now that’s not including my end of January paycheck which will arrive in a couple of days, but, as I’m sure you’ve already gathered, BIG FRIGGING DEAL. If someone were to hand Bill a paycheck of my size, he’d use it to blow his nose. Or worse. (Sidenote: Anybody out there ever use a dollar bill as toilet paper? If so, e-mail me about it.)

Now there’s a long, sordid American journalistic history of really sticking it to the obscenely rich, and I, for one, don’t see any reason to stop this tradition now. Particularly since I’m not one of the obscenely rich. I mean, what does one do with $35 billion? Buy a really big lake-side house? Collect expensive works of art? Give some to a certain Internet author whose paycheck you just blew your nose on?

I didn’t think so. Ergo:

Three Reasons Why Bill Gates is Darth Vader Personified
1. Both are concerned with galactic domination.
2. Both represent an ideology that is fundamentally flawed.
3. I didn’t buy Microsoft stock back in 1986. Dammit.

Well, in conclusion, I think it’s fair speculation that Bill Gates will never be my best friend. Which is too bad for him, because I’ve got a great of a sense of humor, but okay for me, because otherwise my wife would be upset. I’m not sure Bill and I would be interested in doing the same stuff anyway. He doesn’t look like much of a soccer player.

I’m adding that to his list of sins.